In the first half of the 19th century Holbeck village was a hamlet of just a few streets, most of which were owned by John Scholey (1774-1834) and are all listed, with tenants, in his will, now at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York.
His family sold up with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, when Holbeck became one of the richest and most significant places in England. Holbeck’s foundries and mills manufactured cloth, machinery, steam engines and other equipment for companies across the world.
The area was home to three of the greatest industrialists of the age: Colonel Thomas Harding, John Marshall and Matthew Murray. Holbeck has suffered significant decline since the 19th century; many of the industrial buildings and warehouses have been demolished or fallen into disrepair. Holbeck is nevertheless home to 33 listed buildings and many other important architectural structures, some of the most notable of these are: The Dark Arches, the Hol Beck, Marshall’s Mill, the Midland Mills, the Round Foundry, Temple Works, Tower Works and two railway roundhouses.
Holbeck was once well served by rail; Holbeck Station (now demolished) was notable because it was a two-tier station with a low line and a high line. A disused railway viaduct still runs through Holbeck. When it was built in 1869, it was thought to be one of the engineering marvels of the Victorian age.
Plans are now underway to convert the track bed (which is currently overgrown with trees and shrubs) into a raised walkway leading directly into Leeds City centre.From 1956 to 2004 Kay’s Catalogues was the largest employer in Holbeck. Particularly around Christmas when temporary staff were taken on to cope with the rush.